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  • Writer's pictureLucas Friesen

San Siro!

Finché vivrò, I will remember San Siro as one of the wildest sporting venues I’ve ever visited. In late October, 2023, I was alone and wandering on a sun-drenched, Milanese afternoon. It was Sunday and I discovered that AC Milan was playing a home match against Juventus that evening. I inquisitively researched the value of attending an AC Milan game and football fans agreed that San Siro is a mecca of Italian football. With a seating capacity of over 80,000, it is Italy’s largest stadium. The stars were aligning. I bought a resale ticket and started making my pilgrimage to San Siro.

Taking the Metro from the city to the stadium is fun and easy. At each stop, more fans wearing red and black filled the train. I got off with the legions at San Siro Stadio, the terminus station for Metro Line 5. I found myself on a concrete concourse with the behemoth stadium in the near distance looking like a giant on Earth. My face masked in dumb awe; I stumbled toward the concrete beast.

Before I went through a turnstile, I perused the massive line of food trucks, which are parked by the stadium’s entrances. Their extensive options fuel the hungry AC Milan faithful, keeping them singing and chanting for the full 90. I bought a cold beer and a warm porchetta sandwich. The food lines are more of a mob than a single-file system. Get near the serving side of a truck, make eye contact with a worker and point at what you want. They’re good with English but some sign language often helps.

I entered the stadium and started walking up one of the circular pillars that support each of San Siro’s corners. Upon finding my section, I entered the arena proper and was met with a wall of fans surrounding the vivid pitch. The amount of humanity in this place is startling. I was in the 200 level of the orange section. My seat was in one of the back rows, near a walkway where an opening in the concrete lets the night breeze in and cigarette smoke out. The chairs are hard, plastic and compact. Getting to my chair was a narrow climb up steep steps, tightly passing locals in this crammed mass of energy. From my seat, I had a brilliant view of the action.

Behind one goalie, in the blue section, are the AC Milan ultrafans who give San Siro its intoxicating atmosphere. These fans incessantly sing, light flares and wave flags during the match. The constant cacophony of noise from the ultras includes lovable chants like, “Juve, Juve, vaffanculo,” and banners that translate to, “set a ceiling on the price of the ticket.” Whenever Juventus players touched the ball, the AC Milan fans would whistle incessantly, sounding like an army of cicadas. At the front of the ultras section, next to the field, is a laneway, presumably for people to reach their seats from the stadium’s ground level. However, during the game, the laneway acts as a buffer zone that separates the ultras from the referees. When the refs make a perceived bad call, some ultras rush across the laneway. They lean over the railing, getting as close as they can to the refs on the pitch, and shout their true feelings about the call.

In the highest level of the green section, behind the opposing goalie, the away team’s ultras have their section. Here, Juventus fans cheered with unshaken fervour and they soon became the dominating sound as AC Milan fell behind in the match. By the end, AC Milan fans left disappointed while the Juventus fans, high in their perch, cheered, sang and waved flags as the Juventus players on the pitch approached and applauded their loyal fan base.

For a regular-season football game, San Siro’s environment in unbeatable. Outside of AC Milan and Inter Milan matches, San Siro has some exciting events on the horizon. It will host Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour in mid-July, 2024, and the opening ceremony of the 2026 Winter Olympics.

How long San Siro will remain the centre of Italian football is in question. There are plans to build a new stadium beside this aging mecca. AC Milan’s chairman, Paolo Scaroni, has filed a proposal to build a new stadium in San Donato, next to the club’s headquarters. The government has vowed to keep the stadium until at least the Winter Olympics but it’s anyone’s guess how long it will stand after that.

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